- polished details to discover;
- great levels in 2D mode;
- memorable music;
- dark atmosphere;
- serious themes;
- reliable representation of PTSD;
- Jake's history is really engrossing.
- stiff character animations in 3D mode;
- the shaman;
- long and frequent loading screens;
- too simple – it virtually completes itself.
My adventure with The Last Sky started off the wrong foot – with significant technical problems. After employing both my computers, I still ended up with a white screen in the same spot, right at the beginning of the game. Fortunately, after the first patch, the game already ran smoothly and flawlessly, which finally allowed me to get acquainted with this charming, little story – and it was definitely worth the effort.
Crashes, crashes everywhere
During the first hour of the game, the game kicked me to desktop about a dozen times. I must admit that after this first attempt, I didn't really feel like going back to it. Fortunately, the bug was promptly fixed, and within a few days after the premiere, I was able to freely enjoy the gameplay.
Finding your way
In the game by Little Guy Games, you play as Jake, a war veteran who struggles with excruciating trauma and ill-fated past. He meets a shaman, Tarak, who promises to help him cope with the meanders of his past life. Tarak tells him about a world called Limbo, where a person can discover the truth about themselves. But first, they must face their inner demons and furies, which isn't easy.
I won't talk about the plot anymore – the less you know, the better, and revealing the secrets of Jake's past is a tour de force. Take my word for it. Other than that, I will focus on other aspects that make the game worth your time and money.
First of all, the protagonist is a very interesting and complex character, and the subsequent parts of the puzzle show us an increasingly clear picture of what he went through. This discovery consists in the main thrust of the game – the story quickly draws us in and makes us want to learn as much as possible. For most of the game, we move around a small room that hides its numerous secrets from us. We quickly realize that the room is just a vision, a manifestation of the most painful memories; a prison that Jake can't seem to get out of. The present intertwines with the past, and Jake – at times a little boy, other times, an old man – has one task: face the past.
The puzzles that we need to solve are quite simple, and none of them gave me much trouble. To be honest, I was even a little disappointed at their difficulty, but I'm willing to wave this one off. Why? Because the developers clearly decided to devote the time to create the phenomenal little details and secrets. For example, the bookshelf holds mostly philosophical books about the meaning of life and self-improvement, which is obviously very apt. Every tiny scrap of the past – letters, books, melodies – I absorbed with growing curiosity and a desire for more. Also, the voice acting deserves high praise – the task wasn't easy, but Jake's lines are delivered in a convincing, powerful way.
PTSD – what is it?
Post-traumatic stress disorder is a disorder that can occur after a serious, often life-threatening event that physically or mentally affects an individual. This applies both to victims of assault or violence at school, as well as to victims of car accidents, and commonly to soldiers. Such an extreme event often leads to prevalent trauma. For the victim, trauma is a problem that cannot be easily explained and it therefore limits the person's ability to cope in life or adapt to new situations.
The dark past
The atmosphere is very dark, tense and a little creepy. The soundtrack does wonders here, perfectly complementing the events on the screen. And although the room we're staying in is full of symbolism, it's probably my least favorite moment of the game. The animations of Jake as an old man are a bit crude, and although the details of individual elements of the room tell their own story, they're not very compelling in visual terms. I felt that the 3D fragments were much weaker than the stunning, atmospheric, 2D platform stages, where each scene is a small work of art. It is, in my opinion, the greatest advantage of this product, and although the gameplay is not a real challenge, the visual aspects more than make up for it, because we see and feel the same things as Jake – the fleeting beauty of childhood intertwined with the brutality of war.
Computer games are increasingly talking about mental health issues, helping players understand how a person affected by this condition may feel. In this regard, The Last Sky turns out very convincing; the game is very short (likely no more than an hour), but there really is a lot to unpack. Visions of the past, returning sounds and images, a sense of being trapped in your memories – all this makes us empathize with the hero and can really help to realize the extent of this condition. However, I have some reservations about the shaman and the connection of PTSD with the Buddhist concept of samsara – I personally found it rather redundant.
But this is a minor blemish, and The Last Sky definitely deserves giving it a try. This very short adventure is well informed, and gives you a lot food for thought – not only about the fate of Jake, but also about our own life and behavior. Give it a try and you may learn a thing or two about yourself, and people around you.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
I love adventure games and platformers, and mental illness in pop culture is sort of my pony – I even wrote a bachelor's thesis about it. So, as soon as I heard about The Last Sky, I was very intrigued and couldn't wait to play it. I spent less than two hours with the game.
We received a review copy of the game from Vicarious PR free of charge – big up.
Caroline Zlamanczuk | Gamepressure.com